Food Is Not Your Enemy

Too Much Work, Too Few Jobs
August 17, 2011, 3:52 pm
Filed under: Healthy Lifestyle | Tags: , ,

There’s a Room for Debate piece in the NY Times that contains a few lines that really struck me:

“Today many of us are overworked while millions of us can’t find jobs. Americans work longer hours than citizens of any other industrialized nation — on average nearly nine weeks a year more than in Western Europe. And with fewer vacations: many Americans get less than two weeks a year while the average European gets five or six weeks. “

I can’t tell you how many of my clients work something like a 60-hour week. They’re burned out, exhausted, resentful, and can barely find time to feed themselves. I get so upset when I hear these things because I really feel like their employers take advantage of them–their companies clearly need to hire more people, but figure, hey, well this person is getting all the work done, what does it matter to me if they’re stressed? There’s no regard for employees’ health, physical or mental, and I think this is a dangerous trend in the American workplace. You can offer free blood pressure screenings or seminars in the workplace about work/life balance, but if you’re making your employees work 10 and 12 and 14-hour days, then it’s clear those free health programs are just for show–you don’t care about your employees’ well-being.

Tilapia: The Good and the Bad of This Popular Farmed Fish
May 2, 2011, 11:04 am
Filed under: Meat | Tags: , ,

So is tilapia, that relatively inexpensive and bland white fish, good for you, or not? There are some good answers here.

Mark Bittman’s Food Manifesto

Nice piece by Mark Bittman in the NY Times–titled “A Food Manifesto for the Future”–succinctly listing some of the major problems with our food/agriculture in the U.S. I particularly love that he called out the issue of home cooking–the fact that so few people cook nowadays is a major contributor to our nation’s obesity and health crisis, in my opinion.

Calcium and Vitamin D Supplements Not Necessary?
December 1, 2010, 11:37 am
Filed under: Chronic Disease | Tags: , , ,

A new report by the Institute of Medicine indicates that not only do we likely not need calcium supplements, but that perhaps doctors have been going overboard in declaring pretty much everyone vitamin D deficient.

Most people get enough calcium from food, the report indicates, and we actually need less vitamin D than we’ve been told in recent years.

Of course, this report is further confirmation that there’s a lot of conflicting, confusing information about nutrition out there. There seems to be a study to support every point of view about how we should eat. Regarding vitamin D, though it is suspect that suddenly everyone appears to have a deficiency, I do have clients who have noticed a real difference in their health when they’ve addressed what their doctors told them were low levels of D.

The Rise of Company Gardens

Interesting piece in The New York Times about how several companies are starting to install on-site gardens for employees to tend. Even PepsiCo, Best Buy, and Kohl’s are getting in on the action:

“As companies have less to spend on raises, health benefits and passes to the water park, a fashionable new perk is emerging: all the carrots and zucchini employees can grow.

Carved from rolling green office park turf or tucked into containers on rooftops and converted smoking areas, these corporate plots of dirt spring from growing attention to sustainability and a rising interest in gardening. But they also reflect an economy that calls for creative ways to build workers’ morale and health.”

I’m all for this. Heading outside to garden for a few minutes a day with the company’s blessing is a great way to clear your head and relieve stress. And picking some carrots to munch on sure beats heading to the vending machine for a Snickers bar in the afternoon.

I’m all for this. Heading outside for a few minutes a day with the company’s blessing is a great way to clear your head and relieve stress. And picking some carrots to munch on sure beats heading to the vending machine for a Snickers bar.

Should Doritos, But Not Homemade Carrot Cake, Be Allowed at Bake Sales? Parents Stage Protest

In an effort to tackle the rampant problem of childhood obesity, New York City officials have decided that homemade baked goods should no longer be allowed at school bake sales. Bwuuuah?

Even weirder, what IS allowed are such processed, unhealthy foods as Reduced Fat Cool Ranch Doritos and Stacy’s Cinnamon Sugar Pita Chips. Why? Because these products have nutrition labels and meet city Health Department guidelines on calories, fat, and sodium.

By banning homemade products, the city is, perhaps unintentionally, endorsing junk food made with such suspect ingredients as MSG and high-fructose corn syrup, ingredients you won’t see in any cupcake or muffin made by a parent at home. The fact that these foods come with a nutrition label does not make them any better for our kids.

Laura Shapiro, a food historian and author, told The New York Times that the city’s argument was “exactly the kind of thinking that sent us down the road of packaged, industrial junk food in the first place.”

Many parents are outraged by this new regulation, and are staging a “bake-in” at City Hall on Thursday in protest.

How Overweight Children Affect Their Families
February 12, 2010, 4:59 pm
Filed under: Chronic Disease, weight loss | Tags: ,

Interesting article in The New York Times today about childhood obesity. Successfully changing kids’ habits boils down to this:

“It is nearly impossible for your child to change habits if the rest of the family does not. You cannot reasonably tell a child he is allowed only one soda a week if you keep two-liter bottles of Coke and Sprite in the refrigerator.

Most children react well to change … as long as they do not see it as a punishment. If you explain to your children that by eating better and exercising more, they will have more stamina to play sports and will take fewer trips to the doctor, your children may actually embrace your healthy lifestyle plan.”

This makes good sense. You can’t expect your child to change without you changing. And, of course, it’s in a parent’s interest to drop excess weight as well. When I work with children, I expect that they aren’t the only ones in their home who will benefit from making dietary changes.

Save Money by Eating Your Way to Good Health

“At first blush, the notion of eating our way out of huge public health challenges like obesity, diabetes and heart disease may seem an overly simplistic and idealistic fix for complex, multifaceted problems. But health experts say that, in fact, an apple a day does keep the doctor away, and that many studies prove it.”

Nice affirming news from The New York Times. Companies like Safeway are realizing that health care costs are getting out of control, and are now focusing on preventative care. So many of today’s “expensive” diseases–obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer–are tied to diet and lifestyle choices and are quite preventable. And so, the reasoning goes, if an employer can encourage its workers to eat things like vegetables and whole grains instead of Doritos and McDonald’s, costs for health insurance will ultimately go down or at least stabilize. And it’s working.

The article acknowledges that it’s easier said than done to make dietary and lifestyle changes. There’s so much conflicting info about nutrition out there–which should you listen to?

That’s why I do what I do. As a holistic nutrition counselor, I help my clients discover what works for them, and I support them every step of the way–holding them accountable, but also serving as their biggest cheerleader. You can make lasting changes. And you don’t have to do it alone.

Calorie Postings Don’t Change Habits, Study Finds

You know those calorie postings in fast food and chain restaurants in New York? A new study, reported in today’s New York Times, has shown that they don’t work so well. In fact, the people studied– residents in poor NYC neighborhoods with high rates of obesity–have consumed more calories since the calorie info went up.

What to make of this? The takeaway is that cheap food trumps nutrition.

“‘Nutrition is not the top concern of low-income people, who are probably the least amenable to calorie labeling,’ said Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit health advocacy group in Washington.”

This is no reason, of course, to dump this program. More information, rather than less, is a good thing. The problem is that the cheapest foods are also some of the unhealthiest. Wouldn’t it be nice if someone in the Bronx could walk into a restaurant and order a shrimp, vegetable, and soba noodle stir fry off the dollar menu?

Curry or BBQ Sauce Made of Grape Jelly?
September 30, 2009, 10:19 am
Filed under: food politics | Tags: , ,

I’m loving the middle school in Queens, New York, that’s actually bothering to cook up fresh curries for its students. It’s good to see that there’s a very real movement to give kids fresh, real food in their school cafeterias.

Cost, of course, remains a barrier to wide-ranging change. The executive chef for New York City schools, Jorge Collazo, came and spoke to my class at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition this year, and told us he can only spend $1 per student per day for lunch. But he’s really trying to improve things–he’s made a point of bringing whole-wheat bread and whole-wheat pasta into NYC schools, and really gets it that kids deserve something better than processed junk.